New Girl Review: “Menus” (Season 3, Episode 8)

newgirl s03e08 01 New Girl Review: Menus (Season 3, Episode 8)

Who knew a simple menu for a Chinese restaurant could be a catalyst for change? Who’d have thought that piece of laminated paper that so often ends up on your doormat could prove to be the metaphorical straw that metaphorically breaks the metaphorical camel’s metaphorical back?

This week’s New Girl proves definitively that a simple menu can have that effect, if used in the correct way. If you’d permit me to go a bit too far in my analysis, I think that “Menus” is trying to tell us that the most insignificant things can, if viewed in the right light, help us achieve greater things.

So the apartment gets menus slipped under the door. No big deal, right? Who cares if a menu gets slipped under the door now and again? It’s not a crime, is it? If you’re ordering Chinese food for breakfast, as Nick does when he spies the menu lying at the door, then that might just be a crime against your digestive system, but no big deal ultimately.

Or is it?

Jess doesn’t mind. In fact, it seems like she quite likes it. They’ve been going out for a few months now, and Nick feels like he’s got to the stage that Jess can see him in this way, like he no longer really has to pretend that this isn’t a part of his personality. To the brand new returnee, Coach, his actions seem slovenly. I think to most viewers, Nick’s actions would seem slovenly – it’s not just a quirk of Coach’s intense personality. So he endeavours to train Nick, ostensibly to try and get him out of his funk but, as the episode goes on, we see that Coach might just have his own reasons for wanting to train Nick. Personal reasons.

The reveal that Coach’s attempt to train Nick being a way of proving to himself that he can still coach, after feeling emasculated by his break up with Malia, was really nice. I mean, it wasn’t all that – come on, Nick does need a trainer. He is somebody who needs a kick up the ass to do anything that requires effort, and between them, Coach and Jess are a pretty effective team. Obviously a bit of that rubs off on Nick eventually, when they both lose enthusiasm for their own reasons – Coach for having failed to instil any kind of motivation in Nick; Jess for having failed in taking the kids on their field trip to the seaside (more on that later) – and he decides to give his own rousing, positive speech. He’s not a motivational speaker, not at all, but ultimately it became more meaningful because it was obvious that he was channelling what he thought Coach would say and what he thought Jess might say. He was thinking about what they’d like to hear, and trying to give it to them. And it was nice, even if his karate kick baffled Jess slightly – but it worked, because it did inspire in Jess a way of getting her kids out of the city, to finally see the ocean.

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newgirl s03e08 02 New Girl Review: Menus (Season 3, Episode 8)

So what’s the big deal with Jess and the ocean? Well, at the beginning, she’s wearing a T-shirt with what looks like a hand-drawn logo proclaiming “Ocean Conservation Day,” a presumably made-up thing (how could their slogan, “OCD Rules!”, not be an in-joke?). She wants to take her children to the ocean, but her head teacher Dr. Foster – of whom we don’t see nearly enough – says no. They just don’t have the funds right now, because even though Jess already has everything already organized with funding, they still need to pay for transportation, which according to Dr. Foster, is the most expensive part of field trips.

A sidenote: in most comedy shows I watch, I’m pretty sure that some jokes go over my head. Dr. Foster’s line about “transportation being the most expensive part of any field trip” passed me by completely, but I have been told – by a primary teacher – that transportation actually is the most expensive part of field trips. So that joke rang true for her. It’s nice to think that such an off-hand joke is actually true, and not just a line the writers threw in. Different jokes for different folks, I guess.

Jess’ failure to secure funding for transportation fires her up and, returning to the apartment to find a million menus delivered, she instigates a war of words with the deliciously malicious Brian (Justin Chon, of Twilight fame), owner of local takeout Hop Foo. He’s initially charming but turns out to be completely evil, surprisingly so. There’s nothing funnier than a character in a comedy show being horrible for the sake of being horrible – Seinfeld built its entire set-up on the entire outside world and everybody in it being repugnant (the Soup Nazi probably being the most famous example) – and Brian is just that. He’s at the very least a sociopath, willing to fire somebody to make a minor point to a stranger or baldly lie about his intentions in a very charming way.

Brian is such a good character, and Justin Chon was so funny in the role, that I almost hope we never see him again. As much as I enjoyed his banter with Jess, her initially being flattered by him and slightly attracted to him quickly changing to fury and disgust when she discovers his true nature, it’d be a shame for him to become a recurring character and have his edge worn down in the process.

Brian gives Jess the impetus to make big changes, to sue the restaurant, even threatening to burn down the place (not really though), but she fails. It is at this low ebb, eating Chinese food with Coach on the sofa, when Nick delivers his motivational speech to the pair and inspires them both, in an odd way.

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newgirl s03e08 03 New Girl Review: Menus (Season 3, Episode 8)

Schmidt did turn up throughout the episode, attempting to install a spy camera at one point, but he’s woefully underused as of late. Winston too. I’m starting to get sick of Schmidt not living with the gang, and even though he’s just across the hall, it’s just not the same. “Menus” does sort of remedy that by the end, and not before time.

The gang needs to be together. We need Schmidt back in there. Winston was funny this episode, much more physical than normal, and it mostly worked. Again, woefully underused. Coach has done a great job of usurping the roles that Winston and Schmidt would have taken; you could call him Schminston, or Widt, so effective is he at channelling their two characters. As much as I like Schminston, he’s no Schmidt and Winston. I still need them. You won’t make me forget them, Schminston.

Random Robservations:

  • What was Winston’s “thing” this week? Well, he had two – his burns are much too long, and he’s always injured.
  • He’s also great at finding wheelchairs.
  • Schmidt and the work-out song next door – “That’s a really great work-out song.”
  • Cece’s insulted confusion at Nick getting her to deliver his food nearly stole that scene, but sort of smacked of needing something for Cece to do this week.
  • I could watch Coach smack Nick’s dumplings all day, and I refuse to explain that for anyone who hasn’t watched the episode.
  • Cece and Coach! It’s so obvious now!

More New Girl next week, so don’t you go dying on me, all eight of you who read this.

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